2 mid-career individuals share toughest part about switching jobs after spending most of their working lives in another industry

Making a career change may not be so scary after all.

| Low Jia Ying | Sponsored | December 21, 2021, 05:58 PM

At 62 years old, most people would be wrapping up their careers and planning out their golden years.

But retirement didnt suit Tham Guok Wai, who decided to embark on a new job in a completely different industry.

Tham, now 63, started his new job as a project manager in the special treatment processing industry in 2020 and hasn’t looked back since.

Only “retired” for two years

Tham worked as a production manager in the precision engineering industry for most of his career.

He started as a machinist at Singapore Aerospace Manufacturing and was then deployed as an engineer to assist the company’s Suzhou operations.

Tham stayed in China for 19 years until 2017 and climbed the ranks to become a production manager there.

Finally, in February of 2019, Tham planned to retire.

“Having worked for so many years, I decided to take a break and retire when I reached the age of 60,” he said.

But retirement didn’t seem to suit Tham, and when another company approached him with a position in August 2020, he decided to take it up.

“The majority of my career and life was spent in the precision engineering production line, so [I was] keen to learn new things and [pursue my] interest in special secondary treatment processes,” said Tham.

Tham’s previous role involved intimate knowledge of manufacturing processes like machining and tool cutting.

His new company, Certact Engineering, deals with special treatment processes such as plastic fabrication and plastic heat treatment, a field that Tham had little prior knowledge of.

Making the switch

Making this huge career change, especially at his age, was daunting to Tham:

“[I was afraid] of failure and not being able to handle or cope with the new job.”

Moreover, the many years of experience he accumulated were in a totally different industry.

He said: “The special treatment processing line is a secondary process that I am unfamiliar with. I needed to quickly pick up new skills and knowledge as I would be overseeing this new line [in my new job].”

Despite his fears, however, Tham pressed on.

His family and friends were supportive of his career switch and encouraged him to continue working and learning.

He also felt that he could still contribute to the industry.

Took additional courses to aid his transition

Tham also decided to take up a Career Conversion Programme (CCP) to help him learn the skills and knowledge he would need for his new job.

Specifically, Tham enrolled in the CCP for Advanced Manufacturing Engineer/Assistant Engineer.

Tham was taught the specific processes he would encounter later in his job, which he said helped him assimilate quickly into his new role. Through the programme he was able to acquire new knowledge and technical skills, such as aluminium anodizing, cleaning and waste water treatment processes. Coupled with the structured On-the-Job Training, he was able to step into his role with confidence.

Now, Tham is overseeing the company’s new processing line and humbly said that “things are moving and generally working well” in his current job.

Tham with colleagues at his new job.

As for advice to those seeking to take the plunge and embark on a new career, Tham had this to say: “Remove your pride, accept new obstacles and enjoy learning new things, especially for the older generation.”

From food tech to marketing

After working closely with her sales and marketing colleagues for years, Tan Siao Wei knew that she wanted what they had -- the chance to use her creativity at work.

Tan, 33, was previously working as a food technologist in the regulatory affairs department of a food company.

Her previous job required her to be “very meticulous and detailed” as she had to prepare product information or legal documents for clients.

“Being in regulatory affairs means you are responsible for food safety and making sure your product is compliant, so it does not allow you to be too creative,” Tan said.

Tan would often find herself getting excited about the ideas her marketing colleagues had during work, and she finally decided that she would leave her job and pursue a career in marketing.

Tried not to get demoralised from rejections

But making the switch from being a food technologist to a marketing specialist wasn’t simple.

Her decision to shift from a career she had for most of her adult life initially did not sit well with her family.

She was also warned of the potential problems she may face:

“Many seniors have told me that mid-career individuals are the hardest to hire, as hiring managers are afraid that we will not be able to keep up compared to if they hire someone with relevant experience.”

She was also afraid of not getting her preferred role in the industry.

However, her drive to pursue what she really wanted to do kept her going.

“What helped was trying to stay positive throughout the application process and not being demoralised by rejections,” Tan said.

Her family also eventually came around and grew supportive of her decision.

Met mentors and experts

To help make the career transition easier, Tan signed up for the CCP for In-house Digital Communications Professionals and attained a professional certificate.

The opportunity to meet mentors and industry experts helped her deepen her marketing skills and industry knowledge. The training syllabus covers the digital skill sets required by the industry such as Social Media & Content Marketing, Digital Campaign Planning & Design and Digital Performance & Analytics.

Helpful bosses and colleagues in the new company also helped Tan feel more confident and comfortable in her new role in this industry.

Tan acknowledged that making a career change is not “the easiest journey”.

She said: “You will face many difficulties and sometimes even doubt if you made the right decision. However, I often go with difficult roads, and they often lead to beautiful destinations.”

“Don't give up and fight for what you want to achieve in life.”

Workforce Singapore has around 100 CCPs in more than 30 sectors to help mid-career individuals enter growth industries with industry-recognised reskilling.

This sponsored article by Workforce Singapore made this writer feel less scared if she decides to change careers one day.

All photos via Workforce Singapore.